You might find more than just a moving spiritual experience within these walls.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
Advertisement
Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee in daylight
Credit: Getty Images

You would expect any ghost haunting the Ryman to have decent pitch and a good sense of story. Given that security staff report hearing the voices of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, you’d be right.

The Ryman looks and feels a lot like a church because that’s how it began—as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, which opened to the public in 1892. It was the brainchild of a riverboat captain named Thomas Ryman, who was inspired by evangelist Sam Jones during a Nashville tent revival. Ryman wanted to create a space where others could share the kind of moving spiritual experience he’d had.

For that very reason, some say Thomas Ryman's ghost was among the first to haunt the fabled theater: He intended the Mother Church of Country Music to remain an actual Christian church and wasn't happy to hear secular music performed there. But his ghostly protests have clearly been ignored. The Ryman would become one of the most inspiring performance venues in America, with its large professional stage and rows of pews for the audience.

The Grand Ole Opry came here in 1943, and because some of its performers met with a tragic end—from Hank Williams' untimely death before he turned thirty to Patsy Cline's fatal plane crash—word spread that the Ryman was cursed (though we like to think there's enough positive mojo here to overcome any remotely sinister spirits).

In the 1970s, the Opry moved to a new Grand Ole Opry House. Locals fought to save the Ryman, and Gaylord Entertainment Company invested in its restoration. Thanks to this community effort, Nashville gets to keep a Music City treasure and share it with future generations.

The Opry still returns to the Ryman for an annual winter run. We feel certain that Hank and Patsy return as well. (Would a duet be too much to hope for?)